Baba at work, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

There is no fool-job, we keep bringing up! Provided that this can feed the worker. Some have understood it so well and are doing it with joy. This is the case of Baba, this welder of hoods.

Set up in front of Joseph KI-ZERBO University, Baba has become a specialist in welding hoods. He has made this activity his business and this, since several years. He spent his days sticking pieces of plastic. Baba (an alias) operates in front of one of the doors of the University entrance, on Charles De Gaulle Boulevard. His job is to weld broken hoods. In fact, it is the plastic outer covering that most two-wheeled engines carry. According to Baba, it’s not a matter of lack of clientel. When we arrived, we found Baba visibly busy. Nevertheless, he agreed to give us some of his time. He works in the back of a mechanical workshop. Here, mechanics and welders have been working together for some time.

“Initially, we were only doing repairs, I mean mechanics. At that time, we were settled in the university walls. We recently decided to do some welding as an additional activity. With the increase of clientele using motorcycles like ‘Rainbow’, let’s say that the business is going well! The coatings of these engines are not very resistant, “explained Baba.

In this workshop, the workload is shared. Some do the repair while others only weld hoods. “We decided to organize the tasks as well to be more efficient. My specialty is welding hoods. But sometimes I lend a hand to the mechanics when they are overwhelmed; and they do the same for me”.

In the space that serves as a workshop, Baba is installed in the middle of a panoply of old plastic. These are pieces of hood that he acquired from local mechanics. Often, the gear he receives is so damaged that he must replace whole pieces. And as his customers do not always have the means, he offers them these used parts.

When he must glue the plastic, Baba uses many tools (pliers, saws, rotators, …) to clean the edges. Then he arranges the pieces and holds them together, sometimes using wire. After that, he puts pieces of plastic into a container and puts them on a stove until they melt. This liquid once applied in the grooves left by the pieces of the hood will keep everything in place. At the request of the customer, Baba can apply paint on the welded part, to give it the appearance of a new piece.

If Baba did not want to reveal what he earns, he clearly stated that his work allows him to live decently. Moreover, he said that because most of his customers are students, the prices for his services are lower than the average. In fact, he feels he is more doing a favour than real profit. “I think we are making a favour to customers. If we did not do this job, our customers would have to change their hoods all the time, since they are not resistant. Students mostly solicit us, he hinted.

Mandela Washington Fellow, for Young African Leaders — Civic engagement — Development Cooperation, Economist, Project Management skills, Free learner

Mandela Washington Fellow, for Young African Leaders — Civic engagement — Development Cooperation, Economist, Project Management skills, Free learner